When Godfrey Run in Girard, Pennsylvania, has the first pressing of its apple cider, it is a cause for celebration in our house. We’re not juice drinkers, but we are cider lovers for as long as the season lasts. So much so, we have a refillable glass growler to keep us in stock.
Certainly we drink a fair amount, but I’m also a huge fan of cooking with cider. When it reduces, it is not only sweet, but there is a depth of some tart and caramel that you can’t get with apple juice.
I grew up drinking apple cider in the fall. As soon as the cider mill opened, my father would pile the four of us into the station wagon and head on over. We saved our plastic jugs from week to week and refilled them. I think we went through about 4 gallons a week. As the season started to head toward a close around Thanksgiving, my father would stock up on a few extra jugs and freeze them so we had cider for Christmas.
Most of the time, we drank it cold out of the fridge. But if we had an early ski season, there was nothing like coming home to a glass of hot cider that had been mulling with sticks of cinnamon and some allspice and topped off with a little Captain Morgan’s rum. My drinking days are over, but a glass of hot mulled cider is still a treat on cold days.
I’m getting ahead of myself. It’s still summer. But the nights are cool enough to roast a chicken inside and appreciate it warm.
The recipe is pretty simple – choose a chicken from a good source. Create a brine with 1/2 cup of salt, 1/2 cup of sugar, 1 bay leaf and about 3 cups of hot water. Stir until it is all dissolved. Put the chicken in once the water is room temp and refrigerate overnight if you have time. This is the basis for all my roast chickens. Sometimes I throw some thyme in there, or rosemary, or a few peppercorns. Whatever complements the dish.
When you are ready to cook, pat the chicken off and sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper or a seasoned salt.
One of the keys to cooking a whole chicken is not to put it into a roasting pan that is too big. You want a pan that is only about 2-3 inches wider than the bird in all directions. I use a ridged Le Creuset pan designed to cooked steaks because it holds heat really well and the ridges keep the bird off the bottom of the pan.